2021 Red Sox: Opening Day Roster Predictions

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It’s that time of the year again when we all believe we know more than the GM, and we’re all making our very own Opening Day rosters. Red Sox Spring Training is fast approaching, as pitchers and catchers report to Fenway South on February 18th!

The 2021 Red Sox season brings a heck of a lot more optimism than anything 2020 could have hoped to have promised. Major League Baseball proposed a 26-man roster expansion for the 2021 season. This roster prediction adds an extra bullpen piece, and one less man on the bench, due to the versatility of Kiké Hernández and Marwin González.

2021 Red Sox: Roster Shakeup

Catchers (2)

Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki

Christian Vázquez was relieved to find out he was staying with the Red Sox, as the potential for trade had been on the table given how badly the Red Sox performed in 2020. Vázquez has proved himself valuable, with 2019 being his best season to date. In 2019 Vázquez slashed .283/.320/.477, with a wRC+ of 102. Vázquez also finished sixth on the Red Sox in fWAR with a 3.5, and fifth overall in baseball amongst catchers, finishing only behind Realmuto, Grandal, and Garver.

In the shortened 2020 season, Vázquez improved on his offensive numbers in every category except slugging percentage. According to fWAR, Vázquez has been a top ten catcher in baseball in each of the last two seasons.

Kevin Plawecki came into 2020 Spring Training ready to duke it out with former two-time All-Star Jonathan Lucroy for the backup catcher position. Plawecki won the backup position and posted a .341/.393/.463 slash line, with a wRC+ of 134 in 24 games.

Infielders (5)

Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Bobby Dalbec, Enrique Hernández, Christian Arroyo

Xander Bogaerts. Xander Bogaerts. Xander Bogaerts. A name so nice, you say it thrice! Bogaerts burst onto the scene as a baby-faced 20-year-old at the end of the Red Sox 2013 championship run. A two-time World Series Champion, two-time All-Star, and three-time Silver Slugger winner, Bogaerts is invaluable to the more recent success of the Red Sox. If not for Bogaerts’ average, to at times, below-average defense, he’d arguably be the best shortstop in baseball.

Rafael Devers should be considered a cornerstone piece for the future of the Boston Red Sox. Devers had a breakout year in 2019, where he slashed .311/.361/.555 with a wRC+ of 133. Devers’ defense has come into question in the past as there are times where he looks like a little Adrián Beltré in the making and times where he makes mental mistakes, after mental mistakes.

Devers openly admitted how manager Alex Cora was like a father figure. The lack of Cora’s presence in the Red Sox clubhouse was noticeable during the 2020 season. Not a knock on Ron Roenicke, as he did as well as could be expected, given the roster he was handed to open the season. Cora adds a value not often overlooked by players. Look for Rafael Devers to have a monster season for the 2021 Red Sox.

Promoted in late August of 2020, Bobby Dalbec tore the cover off the ball, hitting .263/.359/.600 with a wRC+ of 152 and eight home runs in 23 games. Dalbec’s cup of coffee in MLB has been just that, a quick cup of coffee, but his power is undoubtedly impressive.

Chaim Bloom signed the versatile Kikè Hernandez to a two-year $14 million deal in late January. Hernandez, himself, has stated that he looks to be the everyday second baseman, but he also serves a great deal of value for the outfield, as he can play all three positions at league to above average.

Outfielders (5)

Alex Verdugo, JD Martinez, Marwin González, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero

Alex Verdugo was the first piece of the Mookie Betts trade that fans caught a glimpse of on NESN, and there was a heck of a lot of pressure on Verdugo to perform at a high level. Verdugo didn’t just perform well, he was the de facto 2020 Red Sox MVP, hitting .308/.367/.478 with an above-average wRC+ of 126. Verdugo projects to slide back into the leadoff spot and play center field. Verdugo’s not Mookie Betts, but he is a darn good All-Star caliber outfielder.

Since 2018, J.D. Martinez has been the everyday designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox. After his release from the Houston Astros in 2014, Martinez looked to reinvent his swing. Since 2014 Martinez has been a three-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, American League Hank Aaron Award winner, and World Series Champion.

Martinez, like a lot of players, found 2020 to be quite the struggle. His 2020 slash line was an abysmal .213/.291/.389 with just a wRC+ of 77 in 237 plate appearances. The use of in-game video has been a major factor in Martinez’s game since his initial release in 2014, and 2020 COVID protocols prohibited him from utilizing the said resource. MLB reapproved the utilization of in-game video, which should prove to be a valuable asset for Martinez and the 2021 Red Sox.

Marwin González, a switch-hitting Swiss Army knife, much like Hernández, can play literally anywhere on the diamond. González’s type of play is great, as he can platoon with right-handed, power hitter Hunter Renfroe, as well as power swinging, and recently traded for, Franchy Cordero. This 2021 Red Sox team is nothing, if not incredibly versatile.

Starting Rotation (5)

Eduardo Rodríguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martín Pérez, Nick Pivetta

At first glance, this Opening Day rotation, which will begin the season without Chris Sale, might not look so as pretty as most fans would hope. Chaim Bloom, believe it or not, has done an incredible job adding pitching depth for the 2021 season. Beginning in the 2020 season, Martín Pérez was slotted as the Red Sox number two starter, now he’s the number four starter, and once Sale comes back, he will be pushed to number five.

The Red Sox continued to add starter depth by signing Garrett Richards. While pitching for the Angels in 2014 and 2015, Richards proved to be one of the better starters in the American League.

The quality of Richards’ pitching repertoire has never been doubted. When healthy, Richards has some of the most elite stuff in the game. The question mark has always been in the ability to stay healthy. The Red Sox took a gamble on Richards, as they hope the reward outweighs the risk.

There are some familiar starter names on this roster and some new ones. There’s a great deal of promise and plenty of question marks. If healthy, this rotation can be the second-best in the AL East. Question marks will be aplenty for the 2021 Red Sox, but the upside is too good to pass up.

Relievers (9)

Adam Ottavino, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernández, Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock, Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Hirokazu Sawamura

The 2020 Red Sox bullpen was a dastardly disaster to watch. The 2021 Red Sox bullpen looks to be a bright spot. Chaim Bloom pulled off an unheard of trade between the Red Sox and Yankees, acquiring Adam Ottavino and minor league pitcher, Frank German. Ottavino projects to be a late-inning reliever alongside Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernández, and Ryan Brasier.

The 2021 Red Sox bullpen adds not just Ottavino, but Matt Andriese, Rule 5 draftee Garrett Whitlock, and Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. At first glance, this pen is stacked much more than anything thrown out during the 60-game 2020 season. The 2021 bullpen, if used properly, will be vastly better than anything imagined from the 2020 bullpen.

2021 Red Sox: Projected Opening Day Lineup

Here’s how the lineup might look on Opening Day 2021…

  1. Alex Verdugo (L) CF
  2. J.D. Martinez (R) DH
  3. Rafael Devers (L) 3B
  4. Xander Bogaerts (R) SS
  5. Marwin González (S) LF
  6. Bobby Dalbec (R) 1B
  7. Francy Cordero (L) RF
  8. Kiké Hernández (R) 2B
  9. Christian Vázquez (R) C

2021 Red Sox: In Conclusion…

The 2021 Red Sox will open the season on April Fools Day at Fenway Park. Fans of the historic franchise can only hope the 2021 ballclub won’t be pulling any practical jokes. Some fans refuse to believe it, but this 2021 Red Sox team is full of potential.

Are there question marks? Undoubtedly. Does the team possess a great deal of upside? Unequivocally. Building the 2021 Red Sox was never about big-time free agents. The 2021 Red Sox were not suddenly going to be World Series favorites because they signed a George Springer or a Trevor Bauer. The 2021 roster construction is about understanding what assets the Red Sox possess and how they can help beyond just the 2021 season.

On paper, this Red Sox team might not catch the eye of a casual fan. On paper, they don’t seem like winners. Some will say it’s just a rebuild. But, you see, this 2021 Red Sox season can be so much more than just a rebuild. On paper, the 2013 Red Sox were just a rebuild. What happened in 2013? A group of guys got together and defied the odds to a World Series Championship. Can the 2021 Red Sox outplay as they did in 2013? Anything is possible. The Red Sox might have the last laugh come September.

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